Timeline: Wesleyan Reflects on the COVID-19 Pandemic
For nearly a year and a half, the COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably affected our lives in varying magnitudes. In this timeline, we explore the evolution of the pandemic through Wesleyan’s lens via public health advisories, photographs, and news stories.
Jan. 22, 2020: Wesleyan’s Medical Director Dr. Tom McLarney issues a public health advisory to the campus community. “As many of you know from news reports, there is a viral illness that has affected the Hubei Province (mainly in Wuhan) China,” he wrote. “This virus is a novel (new) strain of the Corona virus … At this time, there is no threat to the Wesleyan community but the University will be monitoring this and will keep the community apprised of any developments.” Read the post.
Feb. 2, 2020: In response to the World Health Organization announcing an outbreak of a novel coronavirus, or “COVID-19 (coronavirus disease of 2019)”, Wesleyan’s Chinese community (particularly students and parents) bands together to help their fellow citizens. The student-initiated group WesInAction raises more than $23,000, which is used to purchase medical equipment for hospitals in the pandemic’s epicenter in Hubei province, China. Read the story.
Feb. 26, 2020: Vice President for Student Affairs Mike Whaley shares a campus-wide message: “There are no suspected [COVID-19] cases at Wesleyan, nor in Connecticut” but due to several confirmed cases abroad, the “University is recommending that students, faculty, and staff do not travel internationally.” Read the post.
March 11, 2020: Governor Ned Lamont declares a public health emergency after the CDC reports nearly 1,000 known COVID-19 cases nationwide. President Roth suspends all in-person classes. Faculty and staff are asked to work remotely if possible. Read the post.
March 12, 2020: While there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases at Wesleyan, there are five confirmed cases in the State of Connecticut. Athletic contests are canceled. All University-sponsored, connected, or funded domestic and international travel for students, faculty, and staff is prohibited. Read the story.
March 28, 2020: In his “Roth on Wesleyan” blog, President Roth writes about concerns with remote teaching, keeping distance with one another, and the quiet campus. Read the post.
March 31, 2020: Wesleyan stresses the measures to decrease the risk of infection including staying six feet away from others, washing hands frequently, cleaning high-touch surfaces, avoiding sick people and groups of five or more people. Masks are not required. Read the post.
April 6, 2020: To help medical personnel safeguard themselves during the coronavirus outbreak, two makerspace labs on campus manufacture much-needed protective masks using 3D printers. Wesleyan donates its first set of 100 face shields to medical personnel at Middlesex Hospital in Middletown. Read the story.
April 7, 2020: President Roth announces that Wesleyan will delay its 188th Commencement Ceremony, originally scheduled for May 24, 2020. “There is so much uncertainty about what the next few months will hold, and we don’t think it is responsible to plan to bring a large group together on Andrus Field in May,” Roth wrote. Read the story.
April 8, 2020: Dr. Tom McLarney issues a public health update stating the CDC’s new recommendations regarding face masks: “Masks should be worn when going out in the public such as grocery shopping or trips to the pharmacy. This also applies to students on campus picking up their take-out meals. Due to the shortage of N-95 masks (and others) which protect our health care workers from contracting COVID-19 from their patients, simple cloth masks are believed to be sufficient to wear in public.” Read the post.
April 20, 2020: The Office of Admission hosts a virtual WesFest for Class of 2024 admitted students and their families. Read the story.
DISCOVERY, DISRUPTION, RAPID ADAPTATION
May 1–2, 2020: Rather than allowing the COVID-19 pandemic to force a final curtain call on theatrical productions, Wesleyan’s Theater Department pivots to an online format. The department offers live-streamed performances of The Method Gun, featuring 10 student-actors. After countless hours of line rehearsals, overcoming technical frustrations, and learning how to act and teach theater in a virtual world, show director and Assistant Professor of Theater Katie Pearl says, “I almost can’t believe what we pulled off.” Read the story.
May 4, 2020: The Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) offers a passage of a resolution “Commending the Wesleyan Faculty for their Efforts in the Transition Towards Distance Learning.” Faculty have less than two weeks to prepare their courses for distance learning before classes resume after spring break. Read the story.
May 4, 2020: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that United States residents not only practice social distancing but wear masks in public. Wesleyan faculty and staff begin donning masks. Read the story.
May 19, 2020: President Roth reports that Wesleyan may reopen in the fall. “We are confident that Wesleyan can satisfy [required] conditions for reopening, and we very much hope that the University will be fully residential in the fall. We will only open the campus if it is safe to do so,” Roth said. Read the post.
May 20, 2020: The Graduate Liberal Studies photography course, ARTS 613: Studies in Portraiture and Self-Portraiture, shifts focus during the pandemic. Read the story.
May 24, 2020: For the first time in its history, Wesleyan University holds its Commencement virtually, awarding 771 Bachelor of Arts degrees. Streamed on both the Wesleyan website and on Facebook, the ceremony—the University’s 188th—sees more than 3,000 family, friends, faculty, staff, and alumni gather together online for a common moment in celebration of the members of the Class of 2020. Read the story.
June 22, 2020: Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 announces that the University plans to resume in-person classes in the fall, pending the ongoing recommendations of University, state, and federal health and safety experts. The University begins a thorough reactivating campus plan. Read the story.
July 8, 2020: Wesleyan is among more than 300 colleges and universities to issue a joint statement, “Care Counts in Crisis: College Admissions Deans Respond to COVID-19.” Wesleyan’s Vice President and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Amin Abdul-Malik Gonzalez ’96 talks about this shared commitment, as well as how admissions at Wesleyan has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the story.
July 14, 2020: Wesleyan launches the Reactivating Campus website (now called “Keep Wes Safe”), which serves as a key COVID-19 information hub for the campus community. Read the story.
Aug. 20, 2020: Wesleyan partners with the Broad Institute and begins testing Wesleyan students, faculty, and staff for COVID-19 at a testing site on Andrus Field. Students are required to be tested twice a week. Read the story.
Aug. 28, 2020: Wesleyan welcomes students back to campus during the week of Aug. 24. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Residential Life stretches Arrival Day activities over the span of seven days, and students are assigned a formal arrival date and time to minimize crowds and allow for appropriate social distancing. Only students may enter residences during the move-in period. Students are asked to take a COVID-19 test prior to leaving home, and must be tested again upon arrival. They will be tested twice per week throughout the semester. Read the story.
Aug. 28, 2020: While students are quarantined, Wesleyan delivers its annual Orientation Program virtually through live Zoom meetings, town halls, and webinars. Read the story.
Aug. 31: Classes begin and all students are in a required quarantine until Sept. 6. Through multiple platforms, including Zoom and Moodle, faculty teach classes remotely or through a hybrid system. Read the story.
LEARNING, INNOVATION, GROWTH DESPITE UNCERTAINTY
Sept. 1, 2021: Wesleyan holds in-person classes on campus in both indoor and outdoor classroom settings. More than 180 classrooms have been rearranged in order to achieve a minimum six-foot distance between occupants. In addition, break times are expanded to 30 minutes or more to allow for custodians to disinfect all touchable surfaces in each classroom between classes. Read the story.
Sept. 18, 2020: Three weeks into the fall semester, Wesleyan students are adapting to the “new normal” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Face coverings or masks are required in all public spaces to help reduce the spread of the virus. Some students find the masks also can serve as a fashion accessory or statement piece. Read the story.
Sept. 21, 2020: Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance and director of the Allbritton Center, teaches a new course, Dancing During Pandemic, where students meet at the Wesleyan softball fields and keep a 12-foot distance between each other. Read the story.
Sept. 22, 2020: Faculty, staff, and students gather on Zoom for an interdisciplinary conversation, titled “Dis/Ease: Contagion and Pandemics in Our World and Its Stories.” Participants discuss the topics of contagion and how concepts of “dirty/clean” are changing social constructs. Read the story.
Oct. 8, 2020: The NESCAC presidents decide unanimously to cancel the NESCAC athletic conference competition for the winter season. Nevertheless, the Department of Athletics continues to provide a top-of-the-line training regimen for its athletes.
Oct. 16-17, 2020: Wesleyan parents, alumni, faculty, staff, and students gather together virtually to celebrate Wesleyan’s 2020 Homecoming and Family Weekend. Participants are treated to popular WESeminars, live campus tours, a Parents’ Assembly, two symposiums, and more, all from the comfort of their own homes. Read the story.
Oct. 26, 2020: With social distancing in mind, John E. Andrus Professor of Government Mary Alice Haddad teaches her Japanese Politics class through kinesthetic learning—or learning with your body. Read the story.
Nov. 3, 2020: In a divided nation amidst a global pandemic, approximately 600 students, faculty, staff, and local residents vote at Middletown’s Voting District 14, located inside Beckham Hall in Fayerweather. Read the story.
Nov. 17, 2020: Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont rolls the state back to “phase 2.1,” reinstating many restrictions on both indoor and outdoor gatherings. The COVID-19 testing site moves indoors to Beckham Hall for the winter season. Read the story.
Nov. 23, 2020: During the COVID-19 pandemic, most of Wesleyan’s musical activities and classes are canceled, drastically adjusted, or moved to virtual platforms. Fortunately, for Wesleyan’s Javanese gamelan classes, students are still allowed to meet in person. Read the story.
Dec. 17, 2020: More than 25 students in Fred Cohan’s Global Change and Infectious Disease course have pandemic-related op-eds published in national media outlets. Cohan, professor of biology and Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment, assigns the op-ed writing as part of his course and offers students extra credit if they are able to get their work published. Read the story.
STAYING THE COURSE, SEEING LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
Feb. 6, 2021: Wesleyan’s Pandemic Planning Committee members Dr. Thomas McLarney; Rick Culliton, associate vice president and dean of students; and Mike Whaley, vice president for student affairs; speak about their roles in helping the University welcome its community safely back to campus and ensure the well being of Wesleyan students. Read the story.
Feb. 9, 2021: Wesleyan’s 2021 spring semester begins with 2,148 students residing on campus. All students are required to receive a negative COVID-19 test and quarantine before arrival. Read the story.
Feb. 22, 2021: In a “Roth on Wesleyan” blog, President Roth notes that more than 500,000 people in the United States have died of COVID-19 in the past year. “While we pay our respects with remembrance, may we remain vigilant about preventing more losses in the future,” Roth said. “May we find common purpose and even some joy in keeping our community safe.” Read the post.
March 5, 2021: Ninety-nine thousand and counting. That’s how many times Wesleyan students, faculty, and staff have stuck, swiped, and swirled cotton swabs in their nasal cavities over the past seven months at the Wesleyan COVID-19 testing facility, with hopes for that negative result indicating no presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA. Wesleyan’s Curricular Contingency Planning Task Force (CCPTF) continues working to keep the campus community safe. Read the story.
March 9, 2021: Given the NESCAC safety protocols for spring sports, Wesleyan plans to resume athletics conference competition in April. With the health and safety of our students, coaches, faculty, staff, and the greater community foremost in mind, resumption of play will occur only if conditions related to the pandemic remain favorable, and policies and protocols across Connecticut and New England permit. Read the story.
March 9, 2021: Students take advantage of the 60-degree temperatures in Middletown. Students, who are in their fifth week of spring semester classes, continue to wear face coverings in all public places during the pandemic. Read the story.
March 11, 2021: In his “Roth on Wesleyan” blog, President Roth shares a video message about the past year. “A year later, I am filled with sadness for all of us who have suffered losses over the last 12 months, and I am filled with gratitude for the many contributions of our students, staff, faculty and alumni as we navigated the crisis,” he said. Read the post.
March 15, 2021: A panel of Wesleyan faculty and staff experts discuss the importance of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine during a campus-wide webinar titled “Why Get Vaccinated?” Read the story.
March 23-24, 2021: Wesleyan students welcome a two-day study hiatus during spring break. Students remain in Middletown during the mid-week recess. Read the story.
March 27, 2021: Earth and environmental sciences majors, who normally complete their senior capstone outside of the continental United States, carry out their research in Wesleyan’s Long Lane Forest, located a half-mile west from the heart of campus. Read the story.
April 8, 2021: As temperatures rise and campus blooms to life, students continue to follow safety measures this spring by practicing social distancing and wearing masks.
April 14, 2021: Wesleyan announces it will partner with Middletown’s Community Health Center to administer the two-dose Pfizer vaccine to all students residing on campus. Parking Lot V at 75 Vine Street will serve as the walk-through vaccination clinic starting April 24. Read the post.
April 15, 2021: As part of a class assignment for the spring 2021 course Topics in Journalism: The Art and Craft of Journalistic Nonfiction, students are tasked with writing short essays on the continuing battle for normalcy while attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic. The class is taught by Daniel de Visé ’89, Koeppel Journalism Fellow. Read the story.
April 15, 2021: Janine Cory ’91 speaks about COVID-19 myths, vaccinations and vaccine hesitancy, pediatric transmission, health literacy, and more. Cory is the associate director of communications for the CDC COVID-19 Response, Vaccine Task Force. Read the story.
April 16, 2021: Wesleyan announces that all students will need to be vaccinated prior to returning to campus next fall. View post.
April 17, 2021: Wesleyan’s Japanese community gathers outside the College of East Asian Studies to celebrate Ohanami, or “flower viewing.” In early spring, three sakura—or cherry blossom trees—are blooming near the Japanese Garden. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual gathering is restricted to current students studying Japanese and CEAS faculty members.
April 24-25, 2021: Wesleyan partners with the Community Health Center (CHC) to host a vaccine clinic for more than 1,000 registered students. View a WSFB Eyewitness News 3 report.
May 4, 2021: Wesleyan’s Special Collections & Archives, along with Academic Affairs, are hoping to build a historical record—and preserve for posterity—the stories, memories, messages, and creative works of the University’s students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Read the story.
INCHING CLOSER TO NORMALCY
May 5, 2021: The Pandemic Planning Committee announces that it will begin to relax some restrictions in preparation for fall. Effective immediately, gatherings of 20 people or less are permitted; visitors to campus are permitted in outdoor spaces; Usdan opens seven days a week with expanded hours; and as of July 1, University-funded travel for fully-vaccinated faculty, staff, and students is permitted. The wearing of face coverings is still mandated on campus. Read the post.
May 13, 2021: In lieu of Spring Fling, students gather on Andrus Field May for Spring Thing, an end-of-the-semester celebration. Read the story.
May 21, 2021: To date, there have been 163 million cases of COVID and 3.4 million deaths from the disease worldwide. There have been 33 million cases and 583,000 deaths in the U.S. In a public health update, Dr. Tom McLarney dispels some common myths about the COVID-19 vaccines. “It’s no surprise that as vaccine rates are climbing, hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID are decreasing,” he said. Read the post.
May 26, 2021: Wesleyan drops its COVID-19 Dashboard level to low and reports zero active cases on campus.
May 26, 2021: Perseverance, pride, progress, and graduating during a unique moment in history are on the minds of the hundreds of graduates and their families at Wesleyan’s 189th Commencement ceremony. Although the University chose to spread seats six feet apart, wearing masks is optional. Read the story.